London International Academy is proud to announce the launch of its STEM program for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Building on the exceptional talent in the student body at LIA, the school wishes to provide a top quality educational environment that produces students who not only have the grades to enter the top universities but also have the practical skills, collaborative skills and soft skills essential to contribute to the further growth of society.
STEM programs have been implemented around the world in various forms over the last several decades.
There is a common perception that STEM merely involves more study of science and mathematics or requires some separate course to be implemented.
London International Academy’s approach to STEM is distinct in that student agency is an integral part of the program.
In this approach, students and teachers together strive to undertake rich, collaborative and meaningful projects. Rich projects are interdisciplinary, highly challenging and engaging and involve topics that are of interest to students.
Since student interests are taken into account, course planning and extra curricular planning is collaborative. STEM teachers do not simply package a pre-determined set of lessons to re-use year to year. This approach tends to produce monotony and boredom among teachers and students alike.
Rather, STEM teachers create a culture of student agency by actively planning courses, units and lessons with their students.
While mindful of the requirements of the curriculum, teachers identify keystone topics in discussion with their students, often centred around projects that connect with many points in the curriculum and are of interest to the students.
Since collaboration plays such a key role in the process, the value of soft skills becomes apparent: patience, resourcefulness, creativity, cooperation, truthfulness and other human qualities are multipliers of human potential when the right environment is set.
For example, the 3D printer project planned and carried out by LIA students in the last few years connects to numerous points in the mathematics and science curriculum. Calculus and vectors knowledge can be applied in designing 3D models. Electronics connects with trigonometry and physics. The printer has an X, Y and Z axis which can connect to the study of the Carteisan plane and related rates.
The 3D printer project began as a class discussion and then took on a life of its own and was completed by students in the Engineering Club at lunch time. Now, the 3D printer is available to various classes of the school to tie into various parts of the curriculum.
Students who worked on the 3D printer already have experience with computer programming and configuration, programmable electronic interfaces, mechanical construction techniques, electronics safety and assembly, all of which are encountered in various university engineering programs.
In addition, there was a great deal of persistence, creativity, consultation and other qualities required in order to overcome the formidable obstacles posed by the technical requirements of the project.
Other programs and initiatives connected to the STEM program at LIA are the video editing club, the e-Waste initiative, an electronics recycling project started by LIA students, a series of coffee houses involving students from other schools around London.
These projects have been undertaken with the support and collaboration of London Innovation (http://www.londoninnovation.ca/), a local not-for-profit which has its offices in the same building as the boys’ residence.
We plan to systematically continue and expand our efforts this year to bring rich and meaningful experiences to the various clubs and programs at LIA and make connections with the wider community in the process.
In general, school activities tend to be segregated from society and have no sustainable outcome. There is, however, a spectrum of possible outcomes of school-based projects ranging from those projects that have no sustainable impact outside the classroom to those that have a lasting and meaningful effect in the world.
There are numerous cases around the world where students have completed projects with lasting value even though they were younger than society would otherwise expect. While it is not always possible to change the world with every undertaking, we discuss the potential impact of our projects at LIA to allow students to envision a desirable outcome, strive to implement it and feel empowered to make a difference with their efforts.
In the 2015-2016 school year, we look forward to working with our increasingly diverse international student body to create rich, collaborative and meaningful projects accross all of our courses.